Feb 28

Valdespin Off To Hot Start

GM Sandy Alderson said not to discount Jordany Valdespin as a potential leadoff hitter. Valdespin had two singles in that role in last night’s 4-4 tie with Washington.

Valdespin played second base last night and will get a chance to play the outfield. There is a chance Valdespin could make the roster at second if Daniel Murphy isn’t ready.

Murphy will be out for another week to ten days with a strained muscle in his right side.

Valdespin made a bad impression with the Mets last year because of his lack of hustle, and compounded that by being suspended in winter ball. He’s been the good soldier so far this spring.

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Feb 25

Mets Matters: Mets Lose To Nats; Duda To Get Extra Work; Cowgill At Leadoff

Lucas Duda did not start tonight’s 6-4 exhibition game loss against Washington, and won’t be in the lineup tomorrow. Look for him Wednesday or Thursday.

In his first two games, Duda went 0-for-7 with six strikeouts, and told reporters today, “we’re not going to hit the panic just yet.’’

DUDA: Gets cage work.

DUDA: Gets cage work.

The Mets will opt for extra work in the batting cage instead.

Duda, who underwent wrist surgery in the offseason, began to swing the bat in late January rather than December, and has been limited so far this spring, and manager Terry Collins attributes that to his early problems.

This is a good tact to take with Duda, who is being heavily counted on this year to fill voids in left field and power production.

Collins said this is not a demotion and doesn’t want to embarrass Duda, and believes this is the best way to restore his confidence, which can’t be too high right about now.

As of now, Duda is penciled in as the left fielder, but center appears to be a platoon between Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill. The platoon will include the leadoff spot.

Nieuwenhuis will get the first chance to win the job, but the Mets are concerned about his high strikeouts ratio. He struck out 98 times with 25 walks in 282 at-bats. He did hit seven homers, but who knows what his power potential can be? For the amount of times he strikes out, he would need to hit a lot more homers.

Cowgill started tonight in center and at leadoff. It has only been a couple of games, but Cowgill has made a good first impression with his hustle.

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Feb 25

Harvey And D’Arnaud Not There; Duda Totally Off

The Mets tell us to look forward to 2014 and beyond, but we received a glimpse into that future Sunday when Matt Harvey pitched two innings to catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

After ten starts last summer, Harvey is already in the Mets’ rotation; for d’Arnaud, it was his first game since he injured his left knee last June.

There were several communication issues, which is to be expected from a young battery that has never worked together. The most important lesson is Harvey has the final decision on what he throws. If he doesn’t like the pitch, he calls d’Arnaud out to the mound. The bottom line is the pitcher has control over what he throws. If he’s not comfortable with the pitch it will get crushed.

Like a lot of people, d’Arnaud praised Harvey’s poise and demeanor. Harvey said he wasn’t concerned with the miscommunication, citing that they hadn’t worked together before.

Manager Terry Collins made it a point to say d’Arnaud would catch each of the Mets’ starters.

The Mets were also happy with Dillon Gee, who made his first start since surgery last season to repair a damaged artery in his shoulder. Gee threw last September, so he had a feel for his arm and expressed no worries.

Meanwhile, not having a feel for anything is Lucas Duda, who so far is 0-for-7 with six strikeouts. Not anywhere to go but up from there.

Duda’s problem is mechanical reports ESPN in that his lead foot is still too high when he begins his stride. Consequently, he’s not in hitting position and the ball gets in on him too quickly.

WEEKEND METS NOTES: Jonathan Niese gave up a run on three hits in two innings against the University of Michigan. He came out of the game saying he needed to work on getting ahead in the count more. Actually, that’s what all pitchers need to do. … Josh Edgin blew a save against Houston. … Jeurys Familia. … Collin Cowgill is making a good impression.

Feb 24

Mets Matters: Matt Harvey Starts; Pedro Feliciano Sidelined

Matt Harvey gets the ball today against the Houston Astros of the American League at Kissimmee. That just sounds odd. The Mets and Astros were born in 1962 to the National League. (There will be a separate post on that later). For them to be in the AL West doesn’t look right.

Harvey is the Mets’ prized prospect and made a strong first impression during ten starts last year. Not only does he have the physical tools and the stuff, but he showed a willingness to challenge hitters and showed a composure beyond his years.

HARVEY: Goes today vs. Houston (AP)

HARVEY: Goes today vs. Houston (AP)

Travis d’Arnaud will make the trip, as will outfielders Collin Cowgill and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team will stay back to play the University of Michigan, Fred Wilpon’s alma mater.

Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee will pitch in that game. For Gee, it will be his first game since undergoing surgery last summer to repair an artery in his pitching shoulder. Gee began throwing last September and said he doesn’t have any concerns.

David Wright has the day off. He will play in three more exhibition games before leaving for the World Baseball Classic next Saturday.

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Feb 23

Mets Matters: Thoughts On Mets Winning Exhibition Opener

THE GAME: Ruben Tejada hit a two-run homer and Collin Cowgill drove in a run with double as the Mets won their exhibition opener, 5-3, over Washington. One game does not a spring training make, but if you’re going to play the games it is better to win them.

WHEELER IMPRESSIVE: Zack Wheeler wowed them in his first appearance of the spring, giving up a walk and hit in two scoreless innings. Wheeler threw mostly fastballs and sliders, the two easiest pitches to throw at the start, and will work more on his secondary pitches later in the spring. Even so, manager Terry Collins – despite Johan Santana’s condition – said Wheeler would likely open the season for Triple-A Las Vegas. The Mets believe they have a keeper in Wheeler, who threw 30 pitches with 19 of them strikes and working in the 94-96 mph., range and need to move him along slowly. He’ll continue to get work, but as spring training progresses and more innings go to the starters, he could get time in minor league or split squad games. Said Wheeler: “There wasn’t really nerves. I was just a little pumped up going out there. After I got settled down, after the first couple of batters, I think everything went well.’’ Translation: Yes, there were nerves.

PARNELL GETS TOUGH SAVE: With Frank Francisco down with elbow soreness, Bobby Parnell becomes the closer. Parnell worked the ninth and got out of trouble caused by an infield hit and error. I’d much rather see Parnell get in and out of trouble than blow hitters away. The more acclimated he becomes to working out of pressure situations the better. The word on Francisco is he might pick up a baseball Monday, but it would be several weeks before he’s throwing in games. The chances are very good he’ll open the season on the DL and Parnell will be the closer. Jeurys Familia will get a chance to close in a split-squad game Sunday against Houston in Kissimmee.

FELICIANO SIDELINED: Lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano was diagnosed with a heart condition and will be required to wear a monitor to measure an irregular heartbeat. Collins told reporters: “My understanding is he has a heart condition that could possibly be very serious. So that’s why we’re being very, very careful with him. Until we get further results on some of the tests he took in New York, he’s not to be on the field.’’ There remains the distinct possibility this could be the end of Felicano’s career.

NOTES: Shaun Marcum had a rough outing, giving up three runs on four hits, including a two-run homer to Chris Snyder. Marcum said he was having mechanical problems and pushing his change-up. … Somehow, the Mets still think they can get four starts for Santana and have him ready for the Opening Day. What’s the big rush? … Jenrry Mejia will start Tuesday against St. Louis. … Daniel Murphy is working out, but hasn’t been cleared to hit.

ON DECK: I’ll have my Sunday Column for you tomorrow morning. Have a great night.